In a unique rescue mission, over 50 Indian Star Tortoises which were smuggled into Singapore will be brought back to India. With cooperation between the Indian and Singaporean governments, they will now be repatriated to India and returned to their natural habitat in the forests of Karnataka.
WHAT WE KNOW
India-based wildlife conservation NGO Wildlife SOS, working with the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, has secured permissions to repatriate the tortoises indigenous to India.
Investigations by a team of forest officials confirmed Karnataka as the origin of these tortoises. A team of senior forest officers travelled with the NGO workers to Singapore to conduct a physical inspection of the tortoises who had been kept at the ACRES (Animal Concerns Research and Education Society) rescue centre.
Singapore Airlines contributed to the cause by transporting the tortoises.
These tortoises were transported in specially designed boxes for the long plane journey.
Upon arrival in India, they were received by a team from Wildlife SOS and former Chief Wildlife Warden and Head of forest force of Karnataka, BK Singh.
Once the tortoises complete their 3-month quarantine period, radio tagging will help monitor these animals for survival. This project will not only help augment the endangered star tortoise population in India, but will be a demonstration of the government’s commitment and their zero tolerance to illegal wildlife trade.
INDIAN STAR TORTOISE UNDER WILDLIFE PROTECTION ACT
The Indian Star Tortoise is protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and listed in Appendix II of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna), which regulates the international trade of wildlife. Yet it is one of the most trafficked tortoise species in the world owing to the unique star-like radiating pattern on their shell.
The Indian Star Tortoise is poached extensively for its meat and use of its body parts in traditional medicine, as well as for sale in the exotic pet trade. Illegal trafficking of tortoises from southern India to places like Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, among others, fuels the demand for this species.
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